THE SOUND OF THE SHELL
THE BOY WITH FAIR HAIR LOWERED HIMSELF down the last few feet of rock
and began to pick his way toward the lagoon. Though he had taken off his
school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his grey shirt stuck to
him and his hair was plastered to his forehead. All round him the long
scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat. He was clambering
heavily among the creepers and broken trunks when a bird, a vision of
red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witchlike cry; and this cry was
echoed by another.
"Hi!" it said. "Wait a minute!"
The undergrowth at the side of the scar was shaken and a multitude of
raindrops fell pattering.
"Wait a minute," the voice said. "I got caught up."
The fair boy stopped and jerked his stockings with an automatic gesture
that made the jungle seem for a moment like the Home Counties.
The voice spoke again.
"I can't hardly move with all these creeper things."
The owner of the voice came backing out of the undergrowth so that twigs
scratched on a greasy wind-breaker. The naked crooks of his knees were
plump, caught and scratched by thorns. He bent down, removed the thorns
carefully, and turned around. He was shorter than the fair boy and very
fat. He came forward, searching out safe lodgments for his feet, and
then looked up through thick spectacles.
"Where's the man with the megaphone?"
The fair boy shook his head.
"This is an island. At least I think it's an island. That's a reef out
in the sea. Perhaps there aren't any grownups anywhere."
The fat boy looked startled.
"There was that pilot. But he wasn't in the passenger cabin, he was up
The fair boy was peering at the reef through screwed-up eyes.
"All them other kids," the fat boy went on. "Some of them must have got
out. They must have, mustn't they?"
The fair boy began to pick his way as casually as possible toward the
water. He tried to be offhand and not too obviously uninterested, but
the fat boy hurried after him.
"Aren't there any grownups at all?"
"I don't think so."
The fair boy said this solemnly; but then the delight of a realized
ambition overcame him. In the middle of the scar he stood on his head
and grinned at the reversed fat boy.
The fat boy thought for a moment.
The fair boy allowed his feet to come down and sat on the steamy earth.
"He must have flown off after he dropped us. He couldn't land here. Not
in a place with wheels."
"We was attacked!"
"He'll be back all right."
The fat boy shook his head.
"When we was coming down I looked through one of them windows. I saw the
other part of the plane. There were flames coming out of it."
He looked up and down the scar.
"And this is what the cabin done."
The fair boy reached out and touched the jagged end of a trunk. For a
moment he looked interested.
"What happened to it?" he asked. "Where's it got to now?"
"That storm dragged it out to sea. It wasn't half dangerous with all
them tree trunks falling. There must have been some kids still in it."
He hesitated for a moment, then spoke again.
"What's your name?"
The fat boy waited to be asked his name in turn but this proffer of
acquaintance was not made; the fair boy called Ralph smiled vaguely,
stood up, and began to make his way once more toward the lagoon. The fat
boy hung steadily at his shoulder.
"I expect there's a lot more of us scattered about. You haven't seen any
others, have you?"
Ralph shook his head and increased his speed. Then he tripped over a
branch and came down with a crash.
The fat boy stood by him, breathing hard.
"My auntie told me not to run," he explained, "on account of my asthma."
"That's right. Can't catch my breath. I was the only boy in our school
what had asthma," said the fat boy with a touch of pride. "And I've been
wearing specs since I was three."
He took off his glasses and held them out to Ralph, blinking and
smiling, and then started to wipe them against his grubby wind-breaker.
An expression of pain and inward concentration altered the pale contours
of his face. He smeared the sweat from his cheeks and quickly adjusted
the spectacles on his nose.
He glanced round the scar.
"Them fruit," he said, "I expect—"
He put on his glasses, waded away from Ralph, and crouched down among
the tangled foliage.
"I'll be out again in just a minute—"
Ralph disentangled himself cautiously and stole away through the
branches. In a few seconds the fat boy's grunts were behind him and he
was hurrying toward the screen that still lay between him and the
lagoon. He climbed over a broken trunk and was out of the jungle.
The shore was fledged with palm trees. These stood or leaned or reclined
against the light and their green feathers were a hundred feet up in the
air. The ground beneath them was a bank covered with coarse grass, torn
everywhere by the upheavals of fallen trees, scattered with decaying
coconuts and palm saplings. Behind this was the darkness of the forest
proper and the open space of the scar. Ralph stood, one hand against a
grey trunk, and screwed up his eyes against the shimmering water. Out
there, perhaps a mile away, the white surf flinked on a coral reef, and
beyond that the open sea was dark blue. Within the irregular arc of
coral the lagoon was still as a mountain lake—blue of all shades and
shadowy green and purple. The beach between the palm terrace and the
water was a thin stick, endless apparently, for to Ralph's left the
perspectives of palm and beach and water drew to a point at infinity;
and always, almost visible, was the heat.
He jumped down from the terrace. The sand was thick over his black shoes
and the heat hit him. He became conscious of the weight of clothes,
kicked his shoes off fiercely and ripped off each stocking with its
elastic garter in a single movement. Then he leapt back on the terrace,
pulled off his shirt, and stood there among the skull-like coconuts with
green shadows from the palms and the forest sliding over his skin. He
undid the snake-clasp of his belt, lugged off his shorts and pants, and
stood there naked, looking at the dazzling beach and the water.
He was old enough, twelve years and a few months, to have lost the
prominent tummy of childhood and not yet old enough for adolescence to
have made him awkward. You could see now that he might make a boxer, as
far as width and heaviness of shoulders went, but there was a mildness
about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil. He patted the palm
trunk softly, and, forced at last to believe in the reality of the
island laughed delightedly again and stood on his head. He turned nearly
on to his feet, jumped down to the beach, knelt and swept a double
armful of sand into a pile against his chest. Then he sat back and
looked at the water with bright, excited eyes.
The fat boy lowered himself over the terrace and sat down carefully,
using the edge as a seat.
"I'm sorry I been such a time. Them fruit—"
He wiped his glasses and adjusted them on his button nose. The frame had
made a deep, pink "V" on the bridge. He looked critically at Ralph's
golden body and then down at his own clothes. He laid a hand on the end
of a zipper that extended down his chest.
Then he opened the zipper with decision and pulled the whole
wind-breaker over his head.
Ralph looked at him sidelong and said nothing.
"I expect we'll want to know all their names," said the fat boy, "and
make a list. We ought to have a meeting."
Ralph did not take the hint so the fat boy was forced to continue.
"I don't care what they call me," he said confidentially, "so long as
they don't call me what they used to call me at school."
Ralph was faintly interested.
"What was that?"
The fat boy glanced over his shoulder, then leaned toward Ralph.
"They used to call me `Piggy.'"
Ralph shrieked with laughter. He jumped up.
Piggy clasped his hands in apprehension.
"I said I didn't want—"
Ralph danced out into the hot air of the beach and then returned as a
fighter-plane, with wings swept back, and machine-gunned Piggy.
He dived in the sand at Piggy's feet and lay there laughing.
Piggy grinned reluctantly, pleased despite himself at even this much
"So long as you don't tell the others—"
Ralph giggled into the sand. The expression of pain and concentration
returned to Piggy's face.
"Half a sec'."
He hastened back into the forest. Ralph stood up and trotted along to
Here the beach was interrupted abruptly by the square motif of the
landscape; a great platform of pink granite thrust up uncompromisingly
through forest and terrace and sand and lagoon to make a raised jetty
four feet high. The top of this was covered with a thin layer of soil
and coarse grass and shaded with young palm trees. There was not enough
soil for them to grow to any height and when they reached perhaps twenty
feet they fell and dried, forming a criss-cross pattern of trunks, very
convenient to sit on. The palms that still stood made a green roof,
covered on the underside with a quivering tangle of reflections from the
lagoon. Ralph hauled himself onto this platform, noted the coolness and
shade, shut one eye, and decided that the shadows on his body were
really green. He picked his way to the seaward edge of the platform and
stood looking down into the water. It was clear to the bottom and bright
with the efflorescence of tropical weed and coral. A school of tiny,
glittering fish flicked hither and thither. Ralph spoke to himself,
sounding the bass strings of delight.
Beyond the platform there was more enchantment. Some act of God—a
typhoon perhaps, or the storm that had accompanied his own arrival—had
banked sand inside the lagoon so that there was a long, deep pool in the
beach with a high ledge of pink granite at the further end. Ralph had
been deceived before now by the specious appearance of depth in a beach
pool and he approached this one preparing to be disappointed. But the
island ran true to form and the incredible pool, which clearly was only
invaded by the sea at high tide, was so deep at one end as to be dark
green. Ralph inspected the whole thirty yards carefully and then plunged
in. The water was warmer than his blood and he might have been swimming
in a huge bath.
Piggy appeared again, sat on the rocky ledge, and watched Ralph's green
and white body enviously.
"You can't half swim."
Piggy took off his shoes and socks, ranged them carefully on the ledge,
and tested the water with one toe.
"What did you expect?"
"I didn't expect nothing. My auntie—"
"Sucks to your auntie!"
Ralph did a surface dive and swam under water with his eyes open; the
sandy edge of the pool loomed up like a hillside. He turned over,
holding his nose, and a golden light danced and shattered just over his
face. Piggy was looking determined and began to take off his shorts.
Presently he was palely and fatly naked. He tiptoed down the sandy side
of the pool, and sat there up to his neck in water smiling proudly at
"Aren't you going to swim?"
Piggy shook his head.
"I can't swim. I wasn't allowed. My asthma—"
"Sucks to your ass-mar!"
Piggy bore this with a sort of humble patience.
"You can't half swim well."
Ralph paddled backwards down the slope, immersed his mouth and blew a
jet of water into the air. Then he lifted his chin and spoke.
"I could swim when I was five. Daddy taught me. He's a commander in the
Navy. When he gets leave he'll come and rescue us. What's your father?"
Piggy flushed suddenly.
"My dad's dead," he said quickly, "and my mum—"
He took off his glasses and looked vainly for something with which to
"I used to live with my auntie. She kept a candy store. I used to get
ever so many candies. As many as I liked. When'll your dad rescue us?"
"Soon as he can."
Piggy rose dripping from the water and stood naked, cleaning his glasses
with a sock. The only sound that reached them now through the heat of
the morning was the long, grinding roar of the breakers on the reef.
"How does he know we're here?"
Ralph lolled in the water. Sleep enveloped him like the swathing mirages
that were wrestling with the brilliance of the lagoon.
"How does he know we're here?"
Because, thought Ralph, because, because. The roar from the reef became
"They'd tell him at the airport."
Piggy shook his head, put on his flashing glasses and looked down at
"Not them. Didn't you hear what the pilot said? About the atom bomb?
They're all dead."
Ralph pulled himself out of the water, stood facing Piggy, and
considered this unusual problem.
"This an island, isn't it?"
"I climbed a rock," said Ralph slowly, "and I think this is an island."
"They're all dead," said Piggy, "an' this is an island. Nobody don't
know we're here. Your dad don't know, nobody don't know—"
His lips quivered and the spectacles were dimmed with mist.
"We may stay here till we die."
With that word the heat seemed to increase till it became a threatening
weight and the lagoon attacked them with a blinding effulgence.
"Get my clothes," muttered Ralph. "Along there."
He trotted through the sand, enduring the sun's enmity, crossed the
platform and found his scattered clothes. To put on a grey shirt once
more was strangely pleasing. Then he climbed the edge of the platform
and sat in the green shade on a convenient trunk. Piggy hauled himself
up, carrying most of his clothes under his arms. Then he sat carefully
on a fallen trunk near the little cliff that fronted the lagoon; and the
tangled reflections quivered over him.
Presently he spoke.
"We got to find the others. We got to do something."
Ralph said nothing. Here was a coral island. Protected from the sun,
ignoring Piggy's ill-omened talk, he dreamed pleasantly.
"How many of us are there?"
Ralph came forward and stood by Piggy.
"I don't know."
Here and there, little breezes crept over the polished waters beneath
the haze of heat. When these breezes reached the platform the palm
fronds would whisper, so that spots of blurred sunlight slid over their
bodies or moved like bright, winged things in the shade.
Piggy looked up at Ralph. All the shadows on Ralph's face were reversed;
green above, bright below from the lagoon. A blur of sunlight was
crawling across his hair.
"We got to do something."
Ralph looked through him. Here at last was the imagined but never fully
realized place leaping into real life. Ralph's lips parted in a
delighted smile and Piggy, taking this smile to himself as a mark of
recognition, laughed with pleasure.
"If it really is an island—"
Ralph had stopped smiling and was pointing into the lagoon. Something
creamy lay among the ferny weeds.
"No. A shell."
Suddenly Piggy was a-bubble with decorous excitement.
"S'right. It's a shell! I seen one like that before. On someone's back
wall. A conch he called it. He used to blow it and then his mum would
come. It's ever so valuable—"
Near to Ralph's elbow a palm sapling leaned out over the lagoon. Indeed,
the weight was already pulling a lump from the poor soil and soon it
would fall. He tore out the stem and began to poke about in the water,
while the brilliant fish flicked away on this side and that. Piggy
"Careful! You'll break it—"
Ralph spoke absently. The shell was interesting and pretty and a worthy
plaything; but the vivid phantoms of his day-dream still interposed
between him and Piggy, who in this context was an irrelevance. The palm
sapling, bending, pushed the shell across the weeds. Ralph used one hand
as a fulcrum and pressed down with the other till the shell rose,
dripping, and Piggy could make a grab.
Now the shell was no longer a thing seen but not to be touched, Ralph
too became excited. Piggy babbled:
"—a conch; ever so expensive. I bet if you wanted to buy one, you'd
have to pay pounds and pounds and pounds—he had it on his garden wall,
and my auntie—"
Ralph took the shell from Piggy and a little water ran down his arm. In
color the shell was deep cream, touched here and there with fading pink.
Between the point, worn away into a little hole, and the pink lips of
the mouth, lay eighteen inches of shell with a slight spiral twist and
covered with a delicate, embossed pattern. Ralph shook sand out of the
"—mooed like a cow," he said. "He had some white stones too, an' a
bird cage with a green parrot. He didn't blow the white stones, of
course, an' he said—"
Piggy paused for breath and stroked the glistening thing that lay in
Ralph looked up.
"We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They'll come when
they hear us—"
He beamed at Ralph.
"That was what you meant, didn't you? That's why you got the conch out
of the water?"
Ralph pushed back his fair hair.
"How did your friend blow the conch?"
"He kind of spat," said Piggy. "My auntie wouldn't let me blow on
account of my asthma. He said you blew from down here." Piggy laid a
hand on his jutting abdomen. "You try, Ralph. You'll call the others."
Doubtfully, Ralph laid the small end of the shell against his mouth and
blew. There came a rushing sound from its mouth but nothing more. Ralph
wiped the salt water off his lips and tried again, but the shell
"He kind of spat."
Ralph pursed his lips and squirted air into the shell, which emitted a
low, farting noise. This amused both boys so much that Ralph went on
squirting for some minutes, between bouts of laughter.
"He blew from down here."
Ralph grasped the idea and hit the shell with air from his diaphragm.
Immediately the thing sounded. A deep, harsh note boomed under the
palms, Spread through the intricacies of the forest and echoed back from
the pink granite of the mountain. Clouds of birds rose from the
treetops, and something squealed and ran in the undergrowth.
Ralph took the shell away from his lips.
His ordinary voice sounded like a whisper after the harsh note of the
conch. He laid the conch against his lips, took a deep breath and blew
once more. The note boomed again: and then at his firmer pressure, the
note, fluking up an octave, became a strident blare more penetrating
than before. Piggy was shouting something, his face pleased, his glasses
flashing. The birds cried, small animals scuttered. Ralph's breath
failed; the note dropped the octave, became a low wubber, was a rush of
The conch was silent, a gleaming tusk; Ralph's face was dark with
breathlessness and the air over the island was full of bird-clamor and
"I bet you can hear that for miles."
Ralph found his breath and blew a series of short blasts.
Piggy exclaimed: "There's one!"
A child had appeared among the palms, about a hundred yards along the
beach. He was a boy of perhaps six years, sturdy and fair, his clothes
torn, his face covered with a sticky mess of fruit. His trousers had
been lowered for an obvious purpose and had only been pulled back
half-way. He jumped off the palm terrace into the sand and his trousers
fell about his ankles; he stepped out of them and trotted to the
platform. Piggy helped him up. Meanwhile Ralph continued to blow till
voices shouted in the forest. The small boy squatted in front of Ralph,
looking up brightly and vertically. As he received the reassurance of
something purposeful being done he began to look satisfied, and his only
clean digit, a pink thumb, slid into his mouth.
Piggy leaned down to him.
"What's yer name?"
Piggy muttered the name to himself and then shouted it to Ralph, who was
not interested because he was still blowing. His face was dark with the
violent pleasure of making this stupendous noise, and his heart was
making the stretched shirt shake. The shouting in the forest was nearer.
Signs of life were visible now on the beach. The sand, trembling beneath
the heat haze, concealed many figures in its miles of length; boys were
making their way toward the platform through the hot, dumb sand. Three
small children, no older than Johnny, appeared from startlingly close at
hand, where they had been gorging fruit in the forest. A dark little
boy, not much younger than Piggy, parted a tangle of undergrowth, walked
on to the platform, and smiled cheerfully at everybody. More and more of
them came. Taking their cue from the innocent Johnny, they sat down on
the fallen palm trunks and waited. Ralph continued to blow short,
penetrating blasts. Piggy moved among the crowd, asking names and
frowning to remember them. The children gave him the same simple
obedience that they had given to the men with megaphones. Some were
naked and carrying their clothes; others half-naked, or more or less
dressed, in school uniforms, grey, blue, fawn, jacketed, or jerseyed.
There were badges, mottoes even, stripes of color in stockings and
pullovers. Their heads clustered above the trunks in the green shade;
heads brown, fair, black, chestnut, sandy, mouse-colored; heads
muttering, whispering, heads full of eyes that watched Ralph and
speculated. Something was being done.
The children who came along the beach, singly or in twos, leapt into
visibility when they crossed the line from heat haze to nearer sand.
Here, the eye was first attracted to a black, bat-like creature that
danced on the sand, and only later perceived the body above it. The bat
was the child's shadow, shrunk by the vertical sun to a patch between
the hurrying feet. Even while he blew, Ralph noticed the last pair of
bodies that reached the platform above a fluttering patch of black. The
two boys, bullet-headed and with hair like tow, flung themselves down
and lay grinning and panting at Ralph like dogs. They were twins, and
the eye was shocked and incredulous at such cheery duplication. They
breathed together, they grinned together, they were chunky and vital.
They raised wet lips at Ralph, for they seemed provided with not quite
enough skin, so that their profiles were blurred and their mouths pulled
open. Piggy bent his flashing glasses to them and could be heard between
the blasts, repeating their names.
"Sam, Eric, Sam, Eric."
Then he got muddled; the twins shook their heads and pointed at each
other and the crowd laughed.
At last Ralph ceased to blow and sat there, the conch trailing from one
hand, his head bowed on his knees. As the echoes died away so did the
laughter, and there was silence.
Within the diamond haze of the beach something dark was fumbling along.
Ralph saw it first, and watched till the intentness of his gaze drew all
eyes that way. Then the creature stepped from mirage on to clear sand,
and they saw that the darkness was not all shadow but mostly clothing.
The creature was a party of boys, marching approximately in step in two
parallel lines and dressed in strangely eccentric clothing. Shorts,
shirts, and different garments they carried in their hands; but each boy
wore a square black cap with a silver badge on it. Their bodies, from
throat to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks which bore a long silver
cross on the left breast and each neck was finished off with a hambone
frill. The heat of the tropics, the descent, the search for food, and
now this sweaty march along the blazing beach had given them the
complexions of newly washed plums. The boy who controlled them was
dressed in the same way though his cap badge was golden. When his party
was about ten yards from the platform he shouted an order and they
halted, gasping, sweating, swaying in the fierce light. The boy himself
came forward, vaulted on to the platform with his cloak flying, and
peered into what to him was almost complete darkness.
"Where's the man with the trumpet?"
Ralph, sensing his sun-blindness, answered him.
"There's no man with a trumpet. Only me."
The boy came close and peered down at Ralph, screwing up his face as he
did so. What he saw of the fair-haired boy with the creamy shell on his
knees did not seem to satisfy him. He turned quickly, his black cloak
"Isn't there a ship, then?"
Inside the floating cloak he was tall, thin, and bony; and his hair was
red beneath the black cap. His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly
without silliness. Out of this face stared two light blue eyes,
frustrated now, and turning, or ready to turn, to anger.
"Isn't there a man here?"
Ralph spoke to his back.
"No. We're having a meeting. Come and join in."
The group of cloaked boys began to scatter from close line. The tall boy
shouted at them.
"Choir! Stand still!"
Wearily obedient, the choir huddled into line and stood there swaying in
the sun. None the less, some began to protest faintly.
"But, Merridew. Please, Merridew ... can't we?"
Then one of the boys flopped on his face in the sand and the line broke
up. They heaved the fallen boy to the platform and let him lie.
Merridew, his eyes staring, made the best of a bad job.
"All right then. Sit down. Let him alone."
"He's always throwing a faint," said Merridew. "He did in Gib.; and
Addis; and at matins over the precentor."
This last piece of shop brought sniggers from the choir, who perched
like black birds on the criss-cross trunks and examined Ralph with
interest. Piggy asked no names. He was intimidated by this uniformed
superiority and the offhand authority in Merridew's voice. He shrank to
the other side of Ralph and busied himself with his glasses.
Merridew turned to Ralph.
"Aren't there any grownups?"
Merridew sat down on a trunk and looked round the circle.
"Then we'll have to look after ourselves."
Secure on the other side of Ralph, Piggy spoke timidly.
"That's why Ralph made a meeting. So as we can decide what to do. We've
heard names. That's Johnny. Those two—they're twins, Sam 'n Eric.
Which is Eric—? You? No—you're Sam—"
"'n I'm Eric."
"We'd better all have names," said Ralph, "so I'm Ralph."
"We got most names," said Piggy. "Got 'em just now."
"Kids' names," said Merridew. "Why should I be Jack? I'm Merridew."
Ralph turned to him quickly. This was the voice of one who knew his own
"Then," went on Piggy, "that boy—I forget—"
"You're talking too much," said Jack Merridew. "Shut up, Fatty."
"He's not Fatty," cried Ralph, "his real name's Piggy!"
A storm of laughter arose and even the tiniest child joined in. For the
moment the boys were a closed circuit of sympathy with Piggy outside: he
went very pink, bowed his head and cleaned his glasses again.
Finally the laughter died away and the naming continued. There was
Maurice, next in size among the choir boys to Jack, but broad and
grinning all the time. There was a slight, furtive boy whom no one knew,
who kept to himself with an inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy. He
muttered that his name was Roger and was silent again. Bill, Robert,
Harold, Henry; the choir boy who had fainted sat up against a palm
trunk, smiled pallidly at Ralph and said that his name was Simon.
"We've got to decide about being rescued."
There was a buzz. One of the small boys, Henry, said that he wanted to
"Shut up," said Ralph absently. He lifted the conch. "Seems to me we
ought to have a chief to decide things."
"A chief! A chief!"
"I ought to be chief," said Jack with simple arrogance, "because I'm
chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp."
"Well then," said Jack, "I—"
He hesitated. The dark boy, Roger, stirred at last and spoke up.
"Let's have a vote."
"Vote for chief!"
This toy of voting was almost as pleasing as the conch. Jack started to
protest but the clamor changed from the general wish for a chief to an
election by acclaim of Ralph himself. None of the boys could have found
good reason for this; what intelligence had been shown was traceable to
Piggy while the most obvious leader was Jack. But there was a stillness
about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and
attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there
was the conch. The being that had blown that, had sat waiting for them
on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set
"Him with the shell."
"Let him be chief with the trumpet-thing."
Ralph raised a hand for silence.
"All right. Who wants Jack for chief?"
With dreary obedience the choir raised their hands.
"Who wants me?"
Every hand outside the choir except Piggy's was raised immediately. Then
Piggy, too, raised his hand grudgingly into the air.
"I'm chief then."
The circle of boys broke into applause. Even the choir applauded; and
the freckles on Jack's face disappeared under a blush of mortification.
He started up, then changed his mind and sat down again while the air
rang. Ralph looked at him, eager to offer something.
"The choir belongs to you, of course."
"They could be the army—"
"They could be—"
The suffusion drained away from Jack's face. Ralph waved again for
"Jack's in charge of the choir. They can be—what do you want them to
Jack and Ralph smiled at each other with shy liking. The rest began to
Jack stood up.
"All right, choir. Take off your togs."
As if released from class, the choir boys stood up, chattered, piled
their black cloaks on the grass. Jack laid his on the trunk by Ralph.
His grey shorts were sticking to him with sweat. Ralph glanced at them
admiringly, and when Jack saw his glance he explained.
"I tried to get over that hill to see if there was water all round. But
your shell called us."
Ralph smiled and held up the conch for silence.
"Listen, everybody. I've got to have time to think things out. I can't
decide what to do straight off. If this isn't an island we might be
rescued straight away. So we've got to decide if this is an island.
Everybody must stay round here and wait and not go away. Three of
us—if we take more we'd get all mixed, and lose each other—three of
us will go on an expedition and find out. I'll go, and Jack, and,
He looked round the circle of eager faces. There was no lack of boys to
Excerpted from "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding. Copyright © 1959 by William Golding. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.